The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11 (Timescape, July 1982)
I’ve realized I enjoy these old Terry Carr anthologies much more now than when they first appeared 40 years ago.
I wasn’t a sophisticated reader in those days (not that I’m particularly sophisticated today, but at least I’m more patient). I was still discovering science fiction, and purely on the hunt for tales of wonder and adventure. I’d read Carr’s Best Science Fiction volumes with a skeptical eye, not at all convinced I was actually enjoying the finest stories of the year, and skip anything that didn’t grab me in the first few pages.
Nowadays it’s a different story. When I plucked The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11 off my shelves last week, I was delighted to find it contained David R. Palmer’s Hugo-nominated novella “Emergence,” the tale of an 11-year-old girl traveling through a post-apocalyptic US; “The Thermals of August,” Edward Bryant’s Hugo and Nebula-nominated tale of wingsuit-wearing daredevils on a wonderfully realized alien world; Gene Wolfe’s Hugo-nominated classic “The Woman the Unicorn Loved,” about a genetically engineered unicorn that escapes onto a college campus; and Poul Anderson’s famous novella “The Saturn Game,” which swept all the major awards, about an immersive role playing game played by a crew exploring Saturn’s moons that turns unexpectedly deadly.
Opening these books now is a journey of discovery of a different sort. I’m not on the hunt for new authors, and not simply for entertainment, either. It’s more a journey into the past, a chance to explore some of the most innovative and exciting SF of 1981, and see what authors whom I’ve come to love were up to early in their careers — and, especially, find an overlooked fictional gem or two.
[Click the images for the best science fiction versions.]
Some of the books and magazines containing the original tales in The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11
The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11 won the Locus Award for Best Anthology of 1981, and it certainly had a lot going for it. It was the second in the series published by David Hartwell’s Timescape imprint at Pocket Books, after Hartwell managed to lure Carr away from Del Rey, who’d published the first nine volumes.
I expect a bigger budget probably had a lot to do with it — The Timescape editions contained significantly more fiction, jumping in size nearly a hundred pages from the slender Del Rey paperbacks. In fact, at 445 pages The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11 was the longest volume in the entire series, and it contained no less than 17 stories, including three long novellas: “The Saturn Game,” “Emergence,” and Gregory Benford’s Nebula nominee “Swarmer, Skimmer.”
In addition to the longer tales, it also included John Varley’s Hugo and Locus award winner “The Pusher,” and three more Nebula nominees: Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Venice Drowned,” Jack Dann’s “Going Under,” and George Guthridge’s “The Quiet” (also nominated for a Hugo). Plus stories by Roger Zelazny, R. A. Lafferty, Pat Cadigan, Michael Swanwick, Damon Knight, and many others.
The February 1983 Analog containing the sequel to “Emergence,” and the novel version (Bantam, 1984),
plus Time Travelers Strictly Cash (Ace, 1981). Covers by Val Lakey and John Lakey, Jim Burns, and Vincent Di Fate
Several of the pieces collected here were part of popular series. “Seeking,” the sequel to “Emergence,” appeared in the February 1983 Analog, and was nominated for both the Locus and Hugo awards. The two novellas were collected in the 1984 novel Emergence, which was nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and Dick awards, and won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel.
Spider Robinson’s “Serpents’ Teeth” first appeared in Time Travelers Strictly Cash, his second collection of Callahan stories. His other Callahan collections include Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (1977), Callahan’s Secret (1986), and Off the Wall at Callahan’s (1994).
Here’s the complete Table of Contents for The Best Science Fiction of the Year 11.
Introduction by Terry Carr
“The Saturn Game” by Poul Anderson (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, February 2, 1981) — Locus nominee, Hugo and Nebula winner
“Walk the Ice” by Mildred Downey Broxon (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 1981)
“Trial Sample” by Ted Reynolds (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 8, 1981)
“The Pusher” by John Varley (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1981) — Nebula nominee, Hugo and Locus winner
“Venice Drowned” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Universe 11, June 1981) — Nebula nominee
“Walden Three” by Michael Swanwick (New Dimensions 12, June 1981)
“Second Comings – Reasonable Rates” by Pat Cadigan (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1981)
“Forever” by Damon Knight (Omni, November 1981)
“Emergence” by David R. Palmer (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 5, 1981) — Hugo nominee
“You Can’t Go Back” by R. A. Lafferty (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September 28, 1981)
“Walpurgisnacht” by Roger Zelazny (A Rhapsody in Amber, September 1981)
“The Woman the Unicorn Loved” by Gene Wolfe (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 8, 1981) — Hugo nominee
“Serpents’ Teeth” by Spider Robinson (Time Travelers Strictly Cash, March 1981) — Locus nominee
“The Thermals of August” by Edward Bryant (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 1981) — Hugo, Nebula, and Locus nominee
“Going Under” by Jack Dann (Omni, September 1981) — Nebula nominee
“The Quiet” by George Guthridge (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1981) — Hugo, Nebula nominee
“Swarmer, Skimmer” by Gregory Benford (Science Fiction Digest, October-November 1981) — Nebula nominee
The Science Fiction Year by Charles N. Brown
Recommended Reading – 1981 by Terry Carr
We’ve covered many volumes of Terry’s Carr Year’s Best over the years.
World’s Best Science Fiction 1965 – 1970, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr (1965-1970)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3, edited by Terry Carr (1974)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4, edited by Terry Carr (1975)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #5-7, edited by Terry Carr (1976-78)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #8, edited by Terry Carr (1979)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #9, edited by Terry Carr (1980)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #12, edited by Terry Carr (1983)
The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year 1, edited by Terry Carr (1979)
Thomas M. Disch on the Best Science Fiction of 1979
A Return to Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year
The Best Science Fiction 1974, edited by Lester del Rey, Terry Carr, and Donald Wollheim
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #11 was published by Timescape/Pocket Books in July 1982. It is 445 pages, priced at $3.95.
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.